Two Wheels and One Dream

Riding Catalina


About a month ago, I was approached by a young college student who wanted to write about me and my dream for a class assignment. She is the daughter of a close friend to my sister so I happily obliged.

As a result, she wrote one of the most flattering biographical pieces I have ever read. I had asked if I can reproduce this essay as a blog post here. This time she happily obliged.

So without further adieu, here is what she turned in.

The Essay

For some people, finding a calling is not a matter of contemplation, but one borne out of an early and persistent drive. Such was not the case for Johnny Lam. With a stable six-figure job, car, and a house, his life on paper seemed perfect. However, after the passing of his father, Johnny found that his happiness was only a superficial feeling. As he mourned the passing of his father Johnny also realized that he no longer found fulfillment in his everyday life. After a catastrophic personal loss, Johnny Lam abandoned the ideal “American Dream” of prosperity and stability, and began seeking his own unique dream.

Prior to his epiphany, Johnny was an IT Project Manager for two major motion picture studios, building systems

Team Selfie

My Last Team Meeting

used to manage movie budgets and marketing materials. As he became more consumed with living in the “NOW”, as he calls it, Johnny took up cycling. He started off slowly by making small trips around Southern California, but as his trips intensified and became longer, he reflected on himself and what he had accomplished. Johnny found unexpected enjoyment in biking: “Biking happened by accident as my work had a triathlon team who recruited me to join. I dusted my old mountain bike off and rode it for the first time in over 10 years” (Lam). Through cycling, Johnny inevitability made consequential life decisions: he quit his job, sold his car, and made cycling his main focus. Hearing this had me shocked, but at the same time intrigued, with Johnny’s boldness in casting aside his stagnant, unfulfilling life. The decisiveness of Johnny’s choices are also inspiring, compelling me to question the ways in which I’ve compromised or stopped seeking my own seemingly unattainable life desires. As he started to transition into the biking scene, Johnny developed an appreciation for the challenges bikers face. Take car ownership for example: “Owning a car became more of a burden. It took up space, it cost money to maintain, gas money, insurance, and it was worrisome to park it or take it anywhere” (Lam). While for many people, biking is a tedious and onerous mode of transportation, but for Johnny, his new wheels were a form of freedom. Johnny claims that “ever since I was old enough to drive, having a car was the standard. Didn’t think there were any other options to getting around. But, when I rediscovered biking, I had options” (Lam). The utter joy Johnny finds in cycling shines through with each word he speaks on the topic. After listening to his passionate stories, I, too, developed a newfound appreciation for cycling and cyclists. Prior to speaking with Johnny, I thought of biking simply as a form of recreation. However, now I see that it is much more than that. Cycling redefines a person and where they want to go in life. As we spoke, I felt his sense of pride as Johnny explained the process of preparing for each trip, whether it is a one-day excursion or one month. “I learned that what the news and the media shows you is just for ratings grab. In real-life, people are so much friendlier. There are more good than bad people out there” (Lam). Johnny’s optimistic perspective on humanity made me realize the power of first-hand experiences. Nothing is more instructive than the real-life encounters that one faces on a day-to-day basis.

Johnny also shared that there is more to cycling than the physical benefits. Cycling is a gateway to personal

Johnny rides for view

Johnny navigating the dirt road at Father Crowley Vista Point.

improvement and realization. Prior to this interview, I thought the physical aspect of biking would be the challenging, particularly on the longest and most strenuous rides. But to my surprise, Lam claims the most draining part of each ride is all in your head. “There are times of constantly doubting yourself or second guessing your decisions. Fear is a big part of it and that is pretty much all mental” (Lam). As most people take up cycling as a stress reliever, I was shocked to learn that the self-doubt of not being able to accomplish one’s goals was still present. As Johnny racked up more cycling trips and learned from everyone he encountered, he was no longer just a cyclist, but he also became a teacher. Johnny eagerly shares his stories and tips with his newly found community, created a blog, and even became a licensed cyclist for bike tours. Johnny combined his passion for the sport with allowing others to gain insights from his experiences.

Today, Johnny no longer works a 9-5 job, but he still maintains a sense of consistency in his work. The difference is he now works for himself. “I spend a lot of time on my blog and doing other side jobs. I also teach bike safety at schools. The traveling happens, but I am not always on the road” (Lam). The blog is a way for Johnny to reflect on what he has accomplished in his time as a cyclist, but it also allows him to realize how much further he desires to go on just two wheels. To Johnny, there is more to cycling than just travel or transportation. It is learning more about the new places, and how people differ based on their upbringings.

At the Atlantic

Dipping my rear wheel at the Atlantic Ocean in Biarritz.

One of Johnny’s most memorable trips was traveling throughout Europe. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, since this was his first time out of the country since immigrating to the United States at the young age of three. This trip was a testament of Johnny’s accomplishment as a cyclist, since he would be escorting another cyclist on the journey around Europe. Making stops in Hungary, Croatia, Germany, and France (just to name a few countries), with breathless views at each stop, the two-month journey of biking through nine countries found Johnny enduring the various weather conditions throughout the continent. But according to him, “the experience and the fact that we got to where we were, is enough to last a lifetime in unforgettable memories” (Milestonerides). Johnny was also pleased to find that, “biking in Europe is much better. People treat you as a person who travels in a vehicle rather than a recreational toy” (Lam).

It was clear to me that biking meant so much more to Johnny than just a way to occupy his time. No – cycling became a part of him and has molded him into a completely new person. For Johnny, biking isn’t always about the destination, but rather the challenges of the journey itself, stumbles and all. Regardless of the obstacles he faces, he is not deterred from persisting. In fact, obstacles just motivates him all the more! Johnny’s next milestone ride is a cross-country trek. “It’s always been a goal of mine since I knew it was possible and I want to check this off my bucket list” (Lam). With such determination and focus, I have no doubt that Johnny will use his countless hours of time, effort, and passion to make his dreams part of his reality.

With his bike in tow, Johnny Lam sets his own path. Johnny’s ability to translate grief into a zeal for life reveals the tried and try sentiment that it’s never too late to start over and follow your passion in life. One can find purpose and joy in the most unexpected places – like on a bike as you pedal down the unknown road.  

Final Thoughts

Johnny Xtracycle 2009

Her essay reminded me how great of a life I have led for the last 3+ years. I can honestly say I have no regrets with all the decisions I’ve made thus far. I have so many things to be grateful and thankful for.

I want to thank you, my readers, for your support through the years on this blog. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I am so glad to keep this dream going.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you celebrate with the ones you love and savor every delicious bite of your Thanksgiving meal(s).

About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.